Early in my teaching career, I worried whether some of my students could be successful with grade-level math. I focused on ways to make them better students. As I gained experience, I realized the problem wasn’t the students—it was the curriculum. I started to understand the importance of Universal Design for Learning; I just needed a curriculum that was developed with all students in mind.
UDL benefits all students—even those who learn or think differently.
Many students face challenges that can interfere with their ability to build knowledge in math. It’s up to us as teachers to help all students get the most out of their learning experience. To help ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning in math and other subjects, the three UDL guidelines recommend that curricula “provide multiple means of Engagement, Representation, and Action & Expression.”
UDL recommendations for Engagement focus on the why of learning. They help foster purpose and motivate students to learn and persevere. The recommendations for Representation focus on the what of learning by providing ideas for students to engage with the mathematics in different ways. Suggestions for Action & Expression address the how of learning, recommending multiple ways for students to demonstrate what they’ve learned.
Eureka Math® writers closely followed these UDL guidelines in developing the curriculum, so that, unlike textbooks that aim to meet the needs of the average student, Eureka Math meets the needs of all students.
UDL is not the same as differentiated instruction.
While UDL and differentiated instruction have a similar goal of helping all students learn, they are not the same. UDL offers tools and methods that can be set up before instruction, whereas differentiation is implemented in response to the needs of learners identified during and after instruction. UDL approaches learning challenges through lesson design that meets the need of all students. Differentiation approaches learning challenges by asking some students to adapt to a lesson that wasn’t designed with them in mind.
Because Eureka Math incorporates the principles of UDL, your curriculum materials already include what you need to successfully teach every student. You don’t need a separate differentiation guide. Sometimes differentiation can result in decreasing the rigor of the content. By focusing on the UDL principles, Eureka Math keeps the expectations high while meeting the needs of all students.
For example, when you use a Sprint as a fluency activity, you’ll see that the first problems are in reach for all students and later problems get increasingly more challenging. While most students won’t finish all problems, at the end of the Sprint each student has engaged with problems at their own level of challenge. Independent practice follows the same simple to more challenging design as Sprints so teachers can find tasks that engage each student with the learning objective. In Concept Development and through Application Problems, students are encouraged to use multiple strategies and representations flexibly. Lessons incorporate different methods of engagement like drawing, writing out solutions, engaging in partner talks, and whole-class discussions. When math lessons are designed this way, each student has a route to success.
Eureka Math calls out UDL in your Teacher Edition.
Much of the UDL philosophy is woven into the design of each Eureka Math lesson, but you’ll find additional notes on UDL in boxes sprinkled throughout the lessons. These strategically placed suggestions are aligned with the UDL principles and offer simple, quick tips to make the math more accessible to all learners.
The following examples are from three Grade 2 lessons. Notice the suggestions for engaging students as they solidify their understanding of the content. Using different representations that support place value understanding and enhance place value language helps all students learn.
Even though the recommendations in UDL boxes may be particularly beneficial for one student or a small group of students, you’ll find they help every student build knowledge about place value units. That is the beauty of universal design: It helps every student.
Tricia Miller is a Eureka Math Implementation Leader. She is a former teacher, instructional coach, and district math consultant from Southwest Louisiana. Tricia is also past president of the Louisiana Association of Teachers of Mathematics.
Topics: Implementation Support